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The Buddha's discourses on compassionate actions : case studies from Pali Nikayas

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Author

Hur, Young Hee

Date

2002

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy in Religious Studies

Committee

Lancaster, Lewis R.
Guruge, Ananda W. P.
An-Hue, Thich

Abstract

This research initiated by my aspiration to find the direction that the practice of Buddhism should lead to. The Buddha’s main concern was human suffering and its elimination and liberation rather than philosophical speculation or theoretical study by scholars. He stated that specific practice should be concerned with the human situation particularly with reference to human suffering, problems and issues, and the Buddha urged his followers to give people benefit and happiness as he did. The purpose of the present research is to find and show how the Buddha’s compassionate actions are manifested in the Pali Nikayas.

This research has led to the identification of as many as 132 discourses, anecdotes, parables and explanatory notes. This is however, not a restatement of what is already known but a new approach to examine how these passages served to cover relevant themes. Thus this research includes several special researches of repeated discourses. The 132 passages are classified into seven categories according to theme and their frequency and distribution and analysis shown in diagrams and pie charts.

What kind of discourses are they? In Chapter I, the significant results of 132 stories were proven by the research of the whole three Nikayas. 132 stories and three Nikayas showed the same patterns. Therefore, the 132 Stories are truly representative characteristics of the whole three Nikayas and their main stream. Through all my research, it is clear that the Buddha was truly a compassionate teacher.

Chapter II.1 examines the basic teachings of the Buddha with special reference to compassion, The Buddha taught that to practice loving-kindness is more important than to offer enormous quantities of gifts, charities, or donations. One should live righteously and do meritorious deeds for all sentient beings because one who loves himself should not harm others. The Buddha pursed benefits and happiness for others rather than for his own benefit. The Buddha was not an isolated hermit the dhamma for pursuing his own benefit but shared his life and his teachings with others and even teaching far into the night for 45 years. The Buddha sent his first 60 Arahants to transmit the Dhamma for the benefit and happiness of others. He taught He thus established a missionary venture, which has lasted nearly two thousand six hundred years.

Chapter II.2, II.3, II.4 discusses how the Buddha led people to correct views and compassionate actions. The Buddha taught other thinkers that real ascetics do not just practice extreme self-mortification but practice morality and loving-kindness as well. The Buddha clearly said that one is not a Brahmin by birth but rather by action becomes a Brahmin or non-Brahmin, The Buddha’s insight is manifested by his pragmatic view. He did not mislead people about supernatural matters, superstitious things, and miraculous phenomena because these things cannot solve human suffering, cannot lead to liberation and cannot give benefit and happiness to people. In the passages under scrutiny in chapter II we find the Buddha’s pragmatic views which penetrate all phenomena and are based on compassionate action.

Chapter II.5, II.6, II.7 takes up the Buddha’s Path of Liberation with special reference to the doctrine of Impermanence and Four Noble Truths and Final Goal of Practice. The Buddha led people from suffering to liberation. The Buddha taught that form is like a lump of foam, so with the change of form, there arises sorrow and pain. If one understands the impermanence of all things and sees it as it really is with correct wisdom, one does not become attached and finally attains liberation, The Buddha taught the way of purification and the way of nibbana.

The additional findings into the frequency of the Buddha’s teachings described in chapter II shows that the Buddha’s views were rooted in a pragmatic approach to human existence. The results of these data displayed in the tables and charts in Chapter III show a strong support for what we already knew, and give us some new knowledge. My analysis also shows that these passages are adequately representative of the Buddha’s diverse methods of teachings. He traveled many places and wherever he went all classes of people came to ask for the Dhamma and listen to his teachings.

The data also indicates that the Digha Nikaya is more involved in social issues, other thinkers, and has a systematic, logical and highly developed theoretical basis. The Samyutta Nikaya is more involved with the practice for the Bhikkhu Sangha and has many verses, simple explanations and an extremely high frequency of repetition of a single theme. The Majjhima Nikaya teaches thorough practice in one way and deals with various other issues.

My final conclusion is that the 132 frequently quoted discourses, anecdotes, parables and explanatory notes (to which I will refer as “story” for the purposes of brevity and convenience) are representative of the Buddha’s teachings as found in the Pali Tripitaka. By themselves, they are adequate to give a general reader as well as a beginner in scholarly study of Buddhism an authentic and comprehensive introduction to the fundamental teaching of Buddhism, especially in relation to Loving-Kindness and Compassionate Action.

Degree Granter

Hsi Lai University

Library Holding